Coronavirus cases in China continued to fall Wednesday (Feb 19), with 1,749 more infections and 136 additional deaths as the top official in the outbreak's epicenter vowed to find and isolate every infected patient in the city by day's end.
Wednesday marks the final day of a door-to-door campaign in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus emerged, to root out anyone with symptoms whom authorities may have missed so far.
"This must be taken seriously," said Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan's newly minted Communist Party secretary.
"There's nothing more important than human life," Wang said in remarks published by the government of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. "If a single new case is found (after Wednesday), the district leaders will be held responsible."
Mainland China has reported a total of 74,185 cases of the new form of coronavirus and 2,004 deaths. New cases have fallen to under 2,000 for the past two days, but officials and analysts have warned that the threat of a more serious outbreak remains as workers gradually return to work following a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday.
In Hong Kong, a spokesman for Princess Margaret Hospital reported the city's second death out of 62 cases. Media reported the victim was a 70-year-old man with underlying illnesses.
Many countries have set up border screenings and airlines canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in around two dozen countries and caused almost 1,000 confirmed cases outside mainland China. Five deaths have been reported outside the mainland, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and France.
South Korea evacuated six South Koreans and a Japanese family member from the ship, and they began an additional 14-day quarantine Wednesday. More than 300 American passengers were evacuated earlier and are quarantined in the United States, including at least 14 who had tested positive for the virus.
On Tuesday, the U.S. government said the more than 100 American passengers who stayed on the ship or were hospitalized in Japan would have to wait for another two weeks before they could return to the U.S.
The U.S. upgraded its travel advisory for China to Level 4, telling its citizens not to travel to anywhere in the country and advising those currently in China to attempt to depart by commercial means.
"In the event that the situation further deteriorates, the ability of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to U.S. nationals within China may be limited. The United States is not offering chartered evacuation flights from China," the notice said.
"We strongly urge U.S. citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home," the notice said. The U.S. previously flew out scores of its citizens on charter flights from Wuhan but does not have any further plans to do so, it said.
Despite such warnings, Beijing was showing signs of coming back to life this week, with road traffic at around a quarter of usual, up from virtually nothing a week ago. While most restaurants, stores and office buildings remained closed, others had reopened.
People entering were required to have their temperatures taken and register their contact information.
- Source: News websites